Anna Maria Jones, “On the Publication of Dark Blue, 1871-73″


Dark Blue (1871–73) was a monthly magazine, edited by Oxford undergraduate John Christian Freund, which folded two years after a brilliant debut. During its brief run, it brought together a stunning list of literary and artistic contributors, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, A. C. Swinburne, William Morris, Andrew Lang, Mathilde Blind, Sheridan Le Fanu, Simeon Solomon, and Ford Madox Brown, who produced aesthetically and sexually daring poetry, art, and criticism. However, it also strove to “appeal to the whole English-speaking public,” as Freund put it, and, thus, included much that might be described as middlebrow, even conservative. Whereas individual texts from Dark Blue, such as Le Fanu’s Carmilla, have received considerable attention, scholars have devoted very little sustained attention to the journal beyond noting its importance as an “artifact” in the history of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement and British aestheticism, and registering puzzlement at the journal’s eclecticism. This essay returns to Dark Blue to uncover common threads among dissimilar writers and artists. With particular attention to the journal’s commitments to transnationalism, I trace three intertwined threads—synesthesia, translation, and sexual dissidence—as they manifest in key texts by Swinburne, Solomon, Le Fanu, and others. Reading these texts in their original context not only demonstrates Dark Blue’s importance to early formations of aestheticism but also helps us to see how aestheticism connects with, rather than stands in opposition to, mid-Victorian culture.


Figure 1: D. H. Friston for Sheridan Le Fanu, _Carmilla_ (1872, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University)

Readers up on their vampire lore will, perhaps, be familiar with D. H. Friston’s famous illustration of Carmilla, Sheridan Le Fanu’s titular lustful, lesbian vampire, creeping atop the bed of her sleeping victim (see fig. 1).[1] Since its publication, Carmilla has remained in print and has spawned feature films, TV and Web series, video games, novels, and graphic novels, even lending its name to a Japanese “lesbian erotic lifestyle magazine” (Suganama and Welker np). Far fewer readers, however, will be familiar with the original venue for Le Fanu’s vampire classic: Dark Blue. Named for map iconOxford University’s colors, this short-lived monthly magazine was the brainchild of Oxford undergraduate John Christian Freund; it debuted in March 1871 to great fanfare only to fold ignominiously two years later, with its fifth volume unfinished. Whereas in the days before digitization such a little-known and short-lived journal would have been relatively difficult to access, all of its volumes are now available online.[2] In this essay, I explore selections from Dark Blue’s diverse content, which encompassed both “high art” aesthetic and decidedly more middlebrow contributions, among the latter of which Le Fanu’s piece can certainly be numbered, despite its same-sex eroticism. Whether or not attention to the journal’s multifaceted explorations of synesthesia, translation, and queer sexuality as intertwined concerns reveals more coherence of vision than has heretofore been ascribed to Dark Blue, it certainly also allows us—from an admittedly presentist perspective—to read familiar texts anew through their proximity to one another in the pages of the journal. What follows is, to borrow Freund’s own description of his journal, a somewhat “chimerical” project (“Address” v): first, I give a brief account of Dark Blue and its reception before turning, in the second section, to an analysis of some of the content of (and context for) the journal.

The Brief Life of Dark Blue

As Freund explained the journal’s mandate in his “Address to the Public” on Dark Blue’s first anniversary,

common sense seemed to indicate that a periodical that would appeal to the whole English-speaking public, and hence influence their mode of thought, must naturally admit of a certain amount of discussion, or even diversity of opinion, in its pages. . . . Should, therefore, the editor receive on questions of the day, or even on literary topics, articles of value in themselves, it is but common honesty to admit them to a place by the side of articles contributed by members of the University, who were giving the general tone to the publication. (iv)

Freund concluded by reinforcing the journal’s commitment to eclecticism and to transnationalism: “To have, within the space of twelve months . . . even approached the original purpose, by producing articles that have attracted considerable public attention; . . . to have enlisted the sympathies of the Colonies and the Continent; is to have done much, when one considers how many there were who, at the outset, looked upon the whole project as chimerical and absurd” (“Address” v). When Freund thus congratulated himself that Dark Blue had at least partially fulfilled its promise and that it would continue to make good on its claims, he was almost certainly image-crafting, perhaps even attempting damage control in response to rumors of the journal’s shaky financial footing, but he also was not wrong.[3]

It is tempting to read Freund as not unlike Dark Blue’s most famous villain, Le Fanu’s Carmilla. Like Carmilla (alias Millarca, alias Mircalla), he seems to have invented and reinvented himself throughout his life. Like the vampire, he repeatedly lavished attention upon and left for dead a number of objects he held dear, of which Dark Blue was only the first.[4] As with any good gothic tale, early sinister signs foretold future woes for the journal. “We have never seen a magazine start with brighter promise,” enthused the reviewer for Fun (“Chats on the Mags,” 11 Mar. 1871, 106). An ad for Dark Blue, which ran in July 1871, triumphantly collected this and 21 other snippets of praise from various journals and papers (“Ad” 156). However, one month later, the reviewer for Fun remarked tartly, “Dark Blue, we observe, quotes from our columns a notice which speaks of its ‘promise.’ We have little to add to our expressed opinion, but that little is, that we should be better pleased if there were less promise and rather more performance in connection with that periodical” (“Chats on the Mags,” 19 Aug. 1871, 86). The Morning Post likewise noted that “Dark Blue started so auspiciously, and has so well maintained its character until now as a magazine of the better class, that it would be a pity were it to fall ‘from its high estate.’ The current number is an unequal one” (“Magazines,” 4 Sept. 1871, 3). Despite cooling of enthusiasm in some quarters, however, notices in the papers continued to be largely positive even in the months immediately preceding its demise. The Bristol Mercury, on Dark Blue’s first anniversary, justified Freund’s commitment to eclecticism: “The February number of Dark Blue completes the first year of that periodical, which promises to go on with increasing vigour. Mr. J. C. Freund’s original and talented production of ‘Lost,’ a romance, is concluded, and the great variety of other contributions are calculated to satisfy a diversity of tastes” (“Magazines, &c.” 6). In December 1872, the Morning Post, walking back from its earlier reservations, concluded that “the magazine, which is carefully edited, is fully entitled to rank with the best of the serials” (“Magazines” 5 Dec. 1872, 6).

Nevertheless, the early expressions of waning enthusiasm for the journal coincided with Freund’s attempts to economize, and all was not well with Dark Blue; in September of 1871, Freund moved the magazine from established publisher Samson Low to an unknown firm, British and Colonial Publishing Co., which he himself had established (Bradley and Houghton 180). “Edited by John C. Freund” disappeared from the journal’s masthead in February 1873, and the next issue was Dark Blue’s last. In April, Fun delivered this gossipy quip: “A critical contemporary states that ‘the Dark Blue magazine has ceased to exist.’ In other words, Dark Blue has become Invisible Blue. It was evidently not the sort of blue for washing” (“Literary Mem.,” 19 April 1873, 169). Tom Hood, who contributed to Dark Blue, was editor of Fun at this time; he recruited one of Freund’s associate editors, George Robert Sims, to write for his magazine, so Fun’s mordant interest in Dark Blue’s fate is not, perhaps, surprising. Sims, in his 1917 memoir, summed up his time with the journal: “I got plenty of experience on the Dark Blue, but no money, and I wanted some” (My Life 56). Freund’s other associate editor, Alfred Perceval Graves, writes with less circumspection in his 1930 memoir: “Relatives and friends of mine, among them Mr. Ruskin, contributed handsomely towards its publication, and our staff of writers was a strong one. . . . Dark Blue was burdened, however, by a weak novel, composed jointly by Freund and his mother; its business side was mismanaged, and its brief life soon ended” (158). If others on the literary scene in 1873 noticed Dark Blue’s demise, the event certainly did not receive the same coverage in the press that the debut had.

Although the journal’s account ledgers have not come to light, and even the first-hand accounts of Sims and Graves should not stand in their stead as entirely factual accounts,[5] judging by letters among Dark Blue’s contributors, Freund had earned a reputation for not paying his authors as early as 1872.[6] Moreover, one bit of interesting information from the police reports in January 1873 sheds light on the abrupt erasure of Freund’s imprimatur and fills in some of the missing details of the journal’s fortunes. According to the London Daily News, on Saturday, 11 January 1873 Lt. David Thomas Holbrook was brought before the map iconClerkenwell Police Court on charges that he obtained £1000 by fraud from a Mr. Charles Milward who swore that

on or about the 18th of September, 1871, he was at map iconLiverpool, when David Thomas Holbrook (the prisoner) and Mr. John C. Freund called upon him, and requested him to endorse two bills of exchange for 500l. each, which he now produced. Mr. Freund stated that he was in urgent need of funds to continue the publication of the Dark Blue magazine. He further said that the prisoner, whom he introduced, was entitled to a legacy of 1,000 l.under his late uncle’s will, the payment of which was only delayed through one of the executors having died. (“Police Courts” 6)

The Daily News goes on to describe the particulars of the exchange, which resulted in Milward endorsing the bills, and concludes that the charges were dismissed when neither Mr. Milward nor the inspector in charge of the case were present at the hearing and the presiding magistrate declined to issue a new warrant for Holbrook’s arrest. The map iconHampshire Telegraph and map iconSussex Chronicle ran a somewhat more detailed account of the court proceedings on the following Wednesday, reporting that the executors were very much alive and that Holbrook had already received all the money due him from his uncle’s estate (“A Lieutenant Charged” 4). We can never know what would have happened if the charges had not been dropped on a technicality; nor can we know the extent of Freund’s culpability (though it seems, on the face of it, that he instigated rather than abetted the fraud), or if Holbrook’s arrest is the event that led to Freund’s departure from England, or, for that matter, if this was Freund’s only attempt to raise money through fraudulent means. Yet, a cynical reading of Freund’s motives and modus operandi should not prevent our appreciation of Dark Blue on its own merits, as a richly layered, if idiosyncratic, text.

The initial fanfare for Dark Blue was warranted. Indeed, Le Fanu, whose novella ran from December 1871 through March 1872 in the magazine’s second and third volumes, might be called “second string” compared to the magazine’s impressive roster of early contributors, including Pre-Raphaelites Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who contributed a poem, “Down Stream” (illustrated by Ford Madox Brown); William Morris, with a translation of Icelandic epic “The Story of Frithiof the Bold”; and William Michael Rossetti, with two pieces: a poem, “Shelley’s Heart,” and an essay on Italian poet Pasquale de Virgilii. Likewise, A. C. Swinburne’s poem, “The End of a Month” (illustrated by Simeon Solomon) and essay, “Simeon Solomon: Notes on his ‘Vision of Love’ and Other Studies” both appear in the first volume. Andrew Lang contributed not one but two important essays to its first volume—“Théophile Gautier” and “Three Poets of French Bohemia”— as well as (probably) a ghost story, “The Blue Room: The Laird’s Story,” to the fourth volume.[7]

A partial list of contributors from the journal’s full run—writers less well known today, perhaps, but certainly eminent in their day—demonstrates the transnational breadth and quality of the journal’s content. German political exile Karl Blind published essays on German troubadours, Spanish revolutionary politics, and “The Life and Labours of Mazzini.” Mathilde Blind, Karl’s adopted daughter—who went on to no small acclaim as a poet, translator, reviewer, and biographer (of George Eliot among others), perhaps best known for her Darwinian epic, “Ascent of Man”—contributed a review, poems, and a short story, her first signed works (Diedrick, “Dark Blue” 161).[8] G. A. Simcox, regular contributor to the Academy, delivered an adaptation in verse of Indian legend, “Mumal and Mendra” (illustrated by E. F. Clarke). Popular novelist and essayist Eliza Lynn Linton—today best-known for her anti-feminist stance on the Woman Question—published a racy short story about a transatlantic elopement, “My Cousin James.” Musician and poet Theo Marzials, who later went on to publish in the Athenaeum and the Yellow Book, and classicist Jane Ellen [J. E.] Harrison, who later contributed scholarly articles in Oscar Wilde’s Woman’s World and the Academy, both published poems in the journal.

Other noteworthy contributors include Sidney Colvin (prominent literary and art critic); W. H. Pollock (editor of the Saturday Review, 1883–94); Thomas Hughes (author of Tom Brown’s School Days), W. S. Gilbert (of Gilbert & Sullivan fame); Franz Hüffer (father of Ford Madox Ford); and associate editor Alfred Perceval Graves (father of Robert Graves, and editor of Le Fanu’s posthumous Purcell Papers [1880]). Dark Blue also offered readers translations of Charles Baudelaire and Heinrich Heine, as well as essays on map iconScandinavia, map iconIndia, map iconRussia, map iconChina, map iconJapan, map iconGermany, map iconIreland, the map iconUnited States, and map iconFrance.

Truly, the content in Dark Blue is a bit of a hodgepodge. Alongside the aesthetically radical, cosmopolitan, even transgressive, pieces are more staid, socially engaged, didactic articles, such as those by Freund’s mother Amelia Lewis, who was a reformer for women’s rights with her own editorial ambitions.[9] In addition to her uncredited collaboration with Freund on the serialized novel Lost, Lewis’s contributions to Dark Blue include “The People’s Education,” “Recreation: A Religious Duty,” “On Crime,” and “Active Christianity.” Dark Blue also contained some mediocre literary contributions, such as Compton Reade’s serialized novel, Take Care Whom You Trust, which elicited hilariously bad reviews in the press.[10] If he is remembered at all today, Reade is perhaps known for having been sensation novelist Charles Reade’s nephew and, if the reviews are to be believed, thoroughly incompetent biographer.[11]

Dark Blue’s big-name contributors have earned the journal entries in the Wellesley Index, the Rossetti Archive, and the Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism, but relatively little sustained scholarship beyond these.[12] In that last volume, James Keith Diedrick notes that “The sexually transgressive nature of many of the works it published. . . illuminate important connections between the aesthetic movement of the 1870s and fin-de-siècle decadence,” but concludes grimly that “Freund’s vanity and financial mismanagement doomed the journal” (“Dark Blue” 161). The Rossetti Archive similarly remarks on the journal’s significance as “an important artifact in the history of the Pre-Raphaelite movement” but finds that “No purpose or perspective seems to unify Dark Blue other than Freund’s desire to make a splash” (“Dark Blue” n. pag.). The Wellesley Index, which offers the most complete account of the journal’s brief life and sharp decline, notes bemusedly: “As one tries. . . to say what was its main character or predominant attitude, one is baffled” (Bradley and Houghton 181). As Alison Chapman notes in her brief discussion of William Michael Rossetti’s poem “Shelley’s Heart” for the Victorian Poetry Network blog, the “upshot” of these encyclopedic accounts is a dominant narrative about Dark Blue in which “the periodical betrayed its debt to aestheticism because of the amateurishness of the editor, and because of his ambitions to offer material for a wide range of readers.” Questioning the neat division “between poetry of aestheticism and the periodical market,” she asks, “might there be another way to conceive of the relationship rather than one of tension and failure?” (“Poem of the Month” n. pag.). Following Chapman’s cue, I would suggest that we can read the journal’s eclecticism not as a sign of its failure but rather as an opportunity to explore the unusual juxtapositions—strange bedfellows, as it were—and thus see new facets of each contribution. One might fairly describe this methodology as adopting a certain aestheticist sensibility, one that—to borrow Oscar Wilde’s turn of phrase—finds in Dark Blue “something that [Freund] never dreamed of” and thus “reveals to us a secret of which, in truth, it knows nothing” (Wilde 156–57).[13]

Of course, even the least whimsical accounts of nineteenth-century aestheticism reconstruct their objects with the benefit of hindsight. To treat the proponents of “Art for Art’s Sake” as “literally, in another world” compared to denizens of “mid-Victorian” society (Bradley and Houghton 181), for example, is retroactively to assert clearer divisions than were apparent in the 1870s or, indeed, any time thereafter. As Elizabeth Prettejohn describes, “If there is any consensus, it is that Aestheticism as a category is exceptionally elusive. . . . [T]here was no formal grouping of artists or writers who declared allegiance to ‘Aestheticism,’ ‘Art for Art’s Sake,’ or any of the related slogans used in the Victorian press” (“Introduction” 2). One might just as easily trace Dark Blue’s affiliations with Pre-Raphaelitism or Symbolism as with the Aesthetic Movement (recalling that some who were claimed by aestheticism, like Rossetti, vehemently rejected the association). Imprecision notwithstanding, I use the term “aestheticism” to describe a cluster of contributions in Dark Blue because they adopt the dictum “l’art pour l’art” (often with direct reference to its presumed author, Théophile Gautier) and explore related notions of the subjective experience of the arts and of the various arts (and art criticism) as coterminous enterprises. For example, in Andrew Lang’s description of Gautier’s art criticism one can see prefigured Wilde’s vivid description of Pater’s art criticism in his 1891 “Critic as Artist,” to which I alluded above. Lang, noting that Gautier is always motivated by “the love of beauty for itself,” argues:

He sees the work of art, as he sees human life, in a magic mirror of his own. His criticism adds new elements of beauty to the picture or the play he criticises. To the reader the object of criticism, however familiar, becomes another thing, a source of fresh delight; as real life itself is transfigured, removed into a purer atmosphere of pleasure, by the touch of a poet. (26–27)

Interestingly, Lang’s essay is one of two in Dark Blue devoted to Gautier. The second was written for the fourth volume by Evelyn Jerrold, who is less enamored of Gautier’s critical style, citing his “lack of profundity, his lack of judgment even, his inability to do more than paint in words and play with paradoxes” (281).[14] This is, by no means, the only instance of divergent opinions in the journal.

Following the work of critics such as Richard Dellamora, Linda Dowling, and Stefano-Maria Evangelista, students of British aestheticism will be familiar with the imbrication of artistic theory, practice, and criticism with discourses of sexual dissidence. Even before the infamous Wilde trials in 1895 linked Wilde’s art to his sexual practices, disagreements over artistic style were often, at the same time, battles over sexual politics; references to figures such as Gautier, Walt Whitman, or the Greeks functioned as shorthand to signal an author’s aesthetic and sexual investments. Or, as Dellamora puts it, “the tradition of moral-aesthetic reflection on desire between males is a significant one in the Victorian period” (7). Here too, Dark Blue presents a striking confluence of disparate voices. In July 1871, the same month of the publication of Swinburne’s essay praising in Simeon Solomon’s art the “sensitive acuteness of desire, the sublime reserve and balance of passion, which is peculiar to the Greeks” (“Simeon Solomon” 572), Richard St. John Tyrwhitt contributed an essay exploring synesthetic qualities in music and painting, “Eye and Ear Impressions.” Tyrwhitt is best known today for his 1877 attack on J. A. Symonds’s Studies of the Greek Poets, in which Tyrwhitt decried “that Greek love of nature and beauty [which] went frequently against nature” and scoffed at Symonds’s characterization of “Walt Whitman’s Hellenism” (“Greek Spirit” 557), as I will discuss later.[15] However, his musings in his Dark Blue essay bring him closer to the aesthetic spirit of Swinburne’s analysis of Solomon’s art than one might imagine. And, in the October 1871 issue, poet and map iconCambridge Apostle Roden Noel who would later go on, in 1887, to attack Swinburne for his attack on Walt Whitman and, in 1893, to eulogize J. A. Symonds (highlighting Symonds’s admiration of male physical beauty via the Greeks and Whitman),[16] contributed a two-part essay in praise of Whitman, with an accompanying drawing by W. J. Hennessey. Noel’s “aesthetic-moral” discussion of Whitman is certainly as explicit as the passages that Tyrwhitt found so objectionable in Symonds’s Greek Poets. Noel commends Whitman’s “ideal of manly friendship—warm, faithful, founded in mutual love as well as mutual esteem,” though he likewise acknowledges that this ideal will be rejected by the “British Philistine” from whom “any warmer sentiment or demonstration of such [between men]—any love, for instance, into which a sense of beauty and grace should enter, would be greeted. . . with a storm of most virtuous execration and horror” (“Study of Walt Whitman” 338). Perhaps Dark Blue’s newness in 1871, its lack of an established name and “personality,” encouraged these authors to use it as a platform and to push boundaries; perhaps its eclecticism really was the result of Freund’s (heretofore unrecognized) editorial genius. In any case, the journal can be read as a significant milestone in aestheticism’s early development.

Synesthesia, Translation, and Sexual Dissidence in Dark Blue

Although the definition of aestheticism itself may be elusive, it is no secret that among the loose confederation of artists and writers in the 1860s and ’70s who were committed to its dictum of “Art for Art’s Sake” were also many who embraced transnational influences. From Swinburne’s 1862 review of Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal, to Whistler’s engagement with Japonisme, to Pater’s adoption of Baudelaire’s notion of synesthesia among the arts for his own art criticism in The Renaissance, to the vogue for translating French writers such as Baudelaire, Théophile Gautier, and François Villon—we can see manifold efforts to conceive of the arts in translation. Indeed, one might say, the work of translation and the work of theorizing the function and the import of art were always intertwined for many of aestheticism’s apologists. This convergence manifests most clearly in articulations of synesthesia, a slippery concept that enabled artists and writers to capture ineffable qualities of art and of subjective, and embodied, experiences of beauty.

Synesthesia describes a sensory “confusion” when the data of one sense is experienced as another sense’s impression, as, for example, when one “hears” color in a symphony. Although the term seems not to have entered the common parlance in England until the early 1890s, when it became a touchstone of Decadence, the concept by other names was circulated much earlier, not just among aesthetes but more broadly as well. As Linda K. Hughes describes, throughout the nineteenth century “alternative approaches to the relation among word, image, and music. . . circulated widely, often overlapping and contradicting each other” (142). Phrases such as “music of colour” and “coloured hearing” were invoked throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century, with reference to centuries-old debates, by musicians and painters to explore parallels between the aural and the visual (e.g., could individual musical notes be assigned specific colors?). Tyrwhitt’s contribution to Dark Blue, “Eye and Ear Impressions,” for example, undertakes such an inquiry. In it, he urges “skilled critics in painting and music” to “illustrate the strange connections between their studies” (582).

Tyrwhitt, the rector of St. Mary Magdalen in Oxford from 1858 to 1872 (Boase 444), and an ardent admirer of Ruskin, combines Ruskin’s color theory with thirteenth-century liturgical writer Guillaume Durand’s Symbolism of Churches and Church Ornaments, in order to juxtapose Haydn’s music with Turner’s painting:

Haydn’s sunrise is in great degree a symphony in red and yellow with sufficient relief and opposition from purples and even clear blues. The brightest Turner I ever attempted to facsimile was the ‘Sunset at map iconTours’ . . . Having followed it nearly touch for touch, I can say it certainly contains an inversely parallel use of colour to the musical tints just given. (584)

Tyrwhitt finds that painterly techniques “produce effects in colour exactly like (or analogous to) those of multitudinous instruments in an orchestra—and harmony, pitch, tone, light, and shade, &c., are common terms in music” (584). He concludes his essay with a plea for interdisciplinary inquiry: “if a good colourist of English landscape and an inventive musician could ‘combine their information’ and analyse it on paper with any clearness, the results would be interesting and suggestive in the highest degree, and would give the fine arts a direct connection with mental science” (586).[17] (For more on color theory, see Linda M. Shires’ “On Color Theory” and “Color Theory”.) Similar debates can be seen playing out in the musical journals of the period, often in quite heated interchanges in the letters to the editor. As one unnamed author in the Orchestra remarks in 1872, seemingly with a dig at aestheticism:

Fanciful critics are for ever seeking to enlarge the domain of the senses and to supply the limits of one with the attributes of the other. Fanciful music-critics talk of the colour of sound, and fanciful picture critics talk of the chord of colour. This jargon is in great measure the result of the poverty of language, and in a greater measure the result of a desire to be aesthetic when we ought to be plain-spoken. (“Sound-Painting” 122)[18]

The author’s distaste for “fanciful” critics notwithstanding, he is in large part correct in his summary of the aims of aesthetic criticism.

In the sense that the concept of synesthesia became useful for aesthetes to theorize the relationships of the arts to one another and to describe the experience of the perceptive critic, the concept, if not the term itself, is most famously articulated by Walter Pater in his essay “The School of Giorgione,” in which he claims that “all art constantly aspires towards the condition of music” (106). Pater argues that “each art may be observed to pass into the condition of some other art, by what German critics term Andersstreben—a partial alienation from its own limitations, through which the arts are able. . . reciprocally to lend each other new forces” (105). Pater’s choice of wording here appropriates (not to say plagiarizes) Baudelaire’s language in his 1863 description of Eugène Delacroix, so the translational “force” of the idea is doubly layered—that is, Pater translates Baudelaire’s concept of reciprocally empowering arts through the German term Andersstreben to articulate a sense of the arts as mutable, as merging into one another, but also as incommensurable.[19] For, as he warns in the essay’s opening lines, “it is a mistake of much popular criticism to regard poetry, music, and painting—all the various products of art—as but translations into different languages of one another and the same fixed quantity of imaginative thought, supplemented by certain technical qualities” (102). Synesthesia, in this aesthetic sense, then, indicates the imaginative (and creative) work it takes to think one art form through another. It acknowledges both the failure to capture the original exactly and the sense that something new is added in the process of translation.

The figurative use of translation to describe this simultaneously mutable and incommensurable drift across artistic mediums in turn informs theories of literal, linguistic translation. Walter Benjamin’s 1923 “The Task of the Translator,” for instance, captures the synesthetic nature of translation wherein the translation is faithful to the spirit of the original without duplicating it: “[A]s regards the meaning, the language of a translation can—in fact, must—let itself go, so that it gives voice to the intentio of the original not as reproduction but as harmony” (79). Just as Pater conceives of the various arts not as supplying the place of one another but, rather, as “reciprocally” lending force to one another, so Benjamin sees translation as “complementary.” As he argues, “A real translation is transparent; it does not cover the original, does not block its light, but allows the pure language, as though reinforced by its own medium, to shine upon the original all the more fully” (79). Written, in richly aural and visual language, as an introduction to a translation of Baudelaire’s Tableaux Parisiens, Benjamin’s essay remains an important touchstone for translation and comparative literature studies today, and, as such, offers a way of reading contemporary theoretical accounts of incommensurability and untranslatability alongside nineteenth-century aestheticism. For example, Emily Apter, with reference to Benjamin’s “obsession” with “translation failure” (9), describes her project in Against World Literature as “an approach to literary comparatism that recognizes the importance of non-translation, mistranslation, incomparability and untranslatability” (4).[20] In other words, when we look back to a literary-historical hash mark on BRANCH’s timeline, such as the one that marks Dark Blue’s brief life, we should bear in mind its living connections to literary studies today.

To return, then, to Dark Blue—in A. C. Swinburne’s collaborations with Simeon Solomon, the “translational” exchanges from poetry to image, and from image back to text, play out in richly layered harmonies (to borrow an aesthetic idiom). As Catherine Maxwell has demonstrated, synesthetic techniques are foundational to Swinburne’s prose and poetry (Female Sublime 195–99).[21] Swinburne’s interest in synesthesia predates his two contributions to Dark Blue. In “Notes on Some Pictures of 1868,” for example, Swinburne praises Whistler’s Six Projects, decrying the inability of his own words to capture their “delicacy and melody of ineffable colour”: “No task is harder than this of translation from colour into speech, when speech must be so hoarse and feeble, when the colour is so subtle and sublime. Music or verse might strike some string accordant in sound to such painting, but a mere version such as this is as a psalm of Tate’s to a psalm of David’s” (372–73). Of course, Swinburne’s “mere version” does a remarkably competent job conveying the musical qualities of Whistler’s painting. Likewise, his contributions to Dark Blue skillfully blend both sound and sight (and, indeed, the other senses) with complex emotional freight.

Swinburne’s poem, “The End of a Month”—about the afterlife of a torrid affair, which had been previously rejected by Fraser’s for being too naughty (Diedrick, “Dark Blue” 161)—makes use of synesthetic techniques throughout, as when the speaker describes himself as a bee: “From the ardours of the chaliced centre, / From the amourous anther’s golden grime, / That scorch and smutch all wings that enter, / I fly forth hot from honey-time” (117–20). Descriptions of scent, heat, stickiness, and color are juxtaposed to represent the soul’s lasting impressions of the lovers’ passion. Conversely, the lovers’ mood in the present moment is monochromatic and cold, with the poem’s rhythm and alliteration mimicking the repetitious susurrations of the surf breaking on the windswept shore:

The ghost of a sea that shrank up sighing
At the sand’s edge, a short sad breath
Trembling to touch the goal, and dying
With weak heart heaved up once in death—
The rustling sand and shingle shaken
With light sweet touches and small sound—
These could not move us, could not waken
Hearts to look forth, eyes to look round.
Silent we went an hour together,
Under grey skies by waters white,
Our hearts were full of windy weather,
Clouds and blown stars and broken light. (21–32)

Solomon’s accompanying plate (see fig. 2) captures both the passion and physical closeness that belongs to the past of the lovers’ relationship, and the psychological distance that defines their present moment. With their wrists entwined, both figures clutch at the woman’s bosom, she seemingly to keep her garment close, while he pulls at the neckline. He looks toward her, while she looks away into the distance. The illustration conveys the movement of wind in the intermingled locks of hair, underscoring the poem’s use of pathetic fallacy to drive home the sense of emotional desolation. And, like so much of Solomon’s work, the gender of the figures is ambiguous: of equal height and draped in loose, billowing robes, both have the strong facial features, long, muscular necks, and broad shoulders typical of his art, and bear the imprint of the Pre-Raphaelites.

Solomon engraving

Figure 2: Simeon Solomon for A. C. Swinburne, “The End of a Month” (1871, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University)

In “Simeon Solomon,” Swinburne argues that, in Solomon’s work, “the boundary lines of the several conterminous arts appear less as lines of mere distinction than as lines of mutual alliance. . . the subtle interfusion of art with art, of sound with form, of vocal words with silent colours, is as perceptible to the sense and as inexplicable to the understanding. . . as the interfusion of spirit with flesh is to all men” (568). This synesthetic mode enables Solomon to represent conflicting ideas harmoniously, which, not surprisingly, Swinburne notes, “would have drawn forth praise and sympathy from Baudelaire” (575).[22] It also enables him to draw connections between aesthetic innovation and same-sex eroticism: “No painter has more love of loveliness; but the fair forms of godhead and manhood which in ancient art are purely and merely beautiful rise again under his hand with the likeness on them of a new thing, the shadow of a new sense, the hint of a new meaning” (569). Synesthesia here captures not just blended sensory and emotional impressions, but also the movement through time: the sense of becoming. Swinburne identifies in Solomon’s work a spirit “which foresees without eyes and forehears without ears the far-off features and the soundless feet of change” (574). The “likeness. . . of a new thing” that Swinburne identifies in Solomon’s work was, in this moment in 1871, solid enough to be recognized and yet ephemeral enough to remain unnamed.

Swinburne’s essay not only describes but also, characteristically, embodies synesthetic and translational modes in itself. His own richly evocative descriptions of Solomon’s works aim to capture their striking “musical” color and lines. But, he also twice layers the essay’s descriptions with allusions to ekphrastic “translations” of Solomon’s art. First, he alludes to his own work, “Erotion,” written as a comment on the 1866 painting Damon and Aglae. Second, in describing Solomon’s “designs full of mystical attraction and passion, of bitter sweetness and burning beauty,” Swinburne calls out to another text, noting that “The Sleepers and One that Watcheth” (see fig. 3) “has been translated into verse of kindred strength and delicacy, in three fine sonnets” by John Payne (571). Payne, like Swinburne and Andrew Lang, was heavily involved in translating and introducing the French Bohemian poets to English audiences,[23] and his work had been reviewed (unfavorably) in Dark Blue just two months prior to the publication of “Simeon Solomon,” so Swinburne’s reference to Payne here may be taken as a defense of Payne’s, and by extension Solomon’s, queer-eroticism, but also more broadly of aestheticism’s synesthetic-translational mode.

Solomon engraving

Figure 3: Simeon Solomon, “The Sleepers and One that Watcheth” (1867, © Birmingham Museums Trust)

If, as Swinburne claims, Solomon’s works contain “the shadow of a new sense,” we can certainly see how Payne’s sonnets build an increasingly ominous and eroticized narrative out of Solomon’s beautiful trio. In the sketch, only the heads, shoulders, and hands of the figures are visible, with two innocuous stars twinkling in the upper left-hand corner. Their faces seem tranquil, but Payne reads turmoil beneath the surface of the Watcher’s calm. In his third sonnet, Payne fills in the space beyond the edges of the sketch with monstrous life: “The blackness teems the shapes of fearful things; / Weird faces glare at me from out the night, / And eyes that glitter with the lurid light / Of lust and all the horror that it brings” (1–4). Although there is no evidence of wind in the sketch, in Payne’s version “The air is stressful with the pulse of wings” (5). Although the Watcher’s hands appear at rest in the sketch, in the sonnet “Dank hands clasp mine; and breathings stir my hair” (9). Clearly not a literal translation of the original, the sonnets act as synesthetic supplements to a visual work that itself, according to Swinburne, “make[s] music. . . in the dumb show of lines” (“Notes on Some Pictures” 575). Swinburne’s and Payne’s ekphrastic translations of Solomon’s images into text, like Solomon’s illustration of “The End of a Month,” become afterlives of their originals, to borrow Benjamin’s language, or, to return to Pater (by way of Baudelaire), they lend new force to one another.

Ironically, T. H. Leary’s scathing review of Payne’s poetry collection Intaglios, which appeared in Dark Blue in May 1871, disagrees about the quality of the poetry but not about its synesthetic mode. Leary riffs on the “painterly” aspect of Payne’s Intaglios: “Going through them is like going through an ill-arranged gallery of pictures, which are badly hung, badly painted, badly drawn, very painful to look at, and still more painful to dwell upon” (397). Given Leary’s distaste for what he describes as the “sensuous splendour of style, or. . . that appeal to the fascination of the flesh which goes to make up so much of modern poetry” (395), it is, of course, not surprising that he and Swinburne would part ways over Payne’s Intaglios.[24] But, for Leary, Payne’s synesthesia succeeds while his poetry fails—that is, Payne, a poor copyist, paints bad pictures:

[T]hey depict no loveliness of light, of colour, or of form, there is nothing bright or beautiful in them to fix the eye that wanders to them, to delight the eye that dwells on them. Hazy and heavy, coarse in colour, and very indistinct in outline, telling no story to our hearts, touching none of our emotions, feeding no fancy, his pictures are the dullest daubs, and often the very weakest of copies. (397)

Certainly Swinburne’s essay and Leary’s review, read together like Lang’s and Jerrold’s Gautier essays, support Freund’s mandate that Dark Blue “should contain articles on both sides of every question” (iv).

On the surface of things, it may seem to require a longer leap to read Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla as part of the same “conversation” on synesthesia, translation, and queer sexuality. Le Fanu was Anglo-Irish, middle-class, and conservative-leaning rather than radical in his politics and aesthetics; despite his many novels and short stories that might be described as sensational, gothic, or both, he protested against being lumped with the sensational school, preferring, rather, to claim affiliation with “the legitimate school of tragic English romance. . . of Sir Walter Scott” (Le Fanu, Uncle Silas 4).[25] From 1861–1869, he edited the Tory Dublin University Magazine, which, as one contemporary chronicler describes, “aimed to be the political ally and the literary rival” of Blackwood’s and Fraser’s (Fitzpatrick 194). Whereas Carmilla is certainly important to a queer literary tradition, it is most frequently read within the context of the “Anglo-Irish anxieties that Le Fanu brought to all his fiction” (Ridenhour x). In his introduction to Carmilla, for example, Jamieson Ridenhour ties Le Fanu’s vampire to the Irish poetic tradition of the aisling, the vision of a (supernatural) woman who appears to the poet and calls him to the cause of Ireland (xxviii–xxxiv). Yet, as James Walton argues, lines of artistic alliance can be traced from Le Fanu to a broader European tradition, in particular to Honoré de Balzac. Citing both authors’ reliance on visual techniques and tropes like trompe l’oeil, magic lanterns, and phantasmagoria—what he calls their “uncanny realism”—Walton argues that these techniques “contribute largely to the mise en scène of modern European literature. . . . Therefore it helps but little to interpret their appearance [in Le Fanu’s work] in light of the author’s (Anglo-)Irishness alone” (5). Read in this light, Carmilla draws closer to the aesthetic experimentalism that Swinburne outlines in “Simeon Solomon.”

For one thing, Swinburne and Le Fanu share, indirectly, a common antecedent; Le Fanu’s work was informed by the theories of eighteenth-century Swedish esoteric theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, whose influence can be traced to diverse writers and artists including William Blake, Balzac, Baudelaire, Ezra Pound, William Butler Yeats, and the Symbolists. Baudelaire’s famous sonnet “Correspondances,” for example, offers one of his most overt descriptions of synesthesia, but it is also often read as an homage to Swedenborg’s doctrine of correspondences:

Like long-held echoes, blending somewhere else
into one deep and shadowy unison
as limitless as darkness and as day,
the sounds, the scents, the colors correspond. (5–8)[26]

Like Baudelaire, Le Fanu found Swedenborg’s doctrine of correspondences between the physical and spiritual realms compelling.[27] His works interweave Swedenborgian philosophy with suspenseful supernatural plots, as in the short story “Green Tea,” which was collected with Carmilla in In a Glass Darkly. In the story, a character’s overconsumption of green tea pierces the veil between the material and spiritual realms, enabling him to perceive the malevolent spirits haunting him. Indeed, the narrator, German scholar of “metaphysical medicine” Dr. Hesselius, quotes directly from a volume of “Swedenborg’s Arcana Caelestia, in the original Latin,” which he finds among the victim’s books:

I read in the solemn Latin phraseology, a series of sentences indicated by a penciled line at the margin. Of these I copy here a few, translating them into English.

“When a man’s interior sight is opened, which is that of his spirit, then there appear the things of another life, which cannot possibly be made visible to the bodily sight.” (14)

The esoteric revelations of Swedenborg’s doctrine of correspondences—that “the entire natural world is but the ultimate expression of that spiritual world from which, and in which alone, it has its life” (8)—are bound up in the literal practice of translation, and so Swedenborg’s Latin and Hesselius’s German must be converted to the reader’s English. This over-layering of the linguistic and the supernatural is at the heart of Carmilla as well.

Le Fanu’s novella opens with the retrospective narrator, Laura, “translating” herself into terms that her (presumably English) readers can understand, even as she indicates the incommensurability of her terms:

In Styria, we, though by no means magnificent people, inhabit a castle, or schloss. A small income, in that part of the world, goes a great way. Eight or nine hundred a year does wonders. Scantily enough ours would have answered among wealthy people at home. My father is English, and I bear an English name, although I never saw England. But here, in this lonely and primitive place, where everything is so marvelously cheap, I really don’t see how ever so much more money would at all materially add to our comforts, or even luxuries. (1)[28]

In these opening lines, the narrator first glosses the world “castle” with the German “schloss,” thereby providing the sense of the two terms’ inexact equivalence. (If the idea of an English castle were exactly identical to the idea of a German schloss, then there would be no need to provide both terms.) Likewise, Laura’s Englishness is an inexact copy of a “native” English identity. The relative worth of “eight or nine hundred a year” in different geographic and cultural contexts is quantifiable yet open to interpretation as to the subjective experiences of “comfort” and “luxury.”

Further setting the scene, the narrator describes her polyglot domestic circle, which includes her father, Madame Perron (a governess), Mademoiselle De Lafontaine (“a lady such as you term, I believe, a ‘finishing governess’”), and herself: “[Mademoiselle] spoke French and German, Madame Perrodon French and broken English, to which my father and I added English, which, partly to prevent its becoming a lost language among us, and partly from patriotic motives, we spoke every day. The consequence was a Babel. . . which I shall make no attempt to reproduce” (3). Disclaimer aside, Laura does reproduce the “Babel.” That she must qualify the designation “finishing governess” with “such as you term, I believe” renders her own English “broken,” and following immediately after this description, the two governesses are translated into hybrid English-French, “my gouvernantes” (3). Carmilla thus foregrounds translation as a central problem of the text. In its play with imprecisely equivalent terms, it also produces the aural effect of translation in process—that is to say, of itself as translation occurring conversationally “in the moment,” through the narrator’s appeals to her interlocutors.

The shifts between languages and their relationships to the subjects who speak and inhabit them is brought home by the novella’s conclusion in which the vampire’s history is traced through her names, anagrams for one another: “Carmilla,” “Millarca,” “Mircalla.” But, the translation that the novel effects is also a shifting of sensory and emotional impressions from one register to another. In a move common to the Victorian Gothic, and intimately connected to the tradition of vampire lore, monstrous predation overlays sexual desire, pleasure commingles with pain. As Laura describes the vampire,

She used to place her pretty arms about my neck, draw me to her, and laying her cheek to mine, murmur with her lips to my ear. “Dearest, your little heart is wounded; think me not cruel because I obey the irresistible law of my strength and weakness. … In the rapture of my enormous humiliation I live in your warm life, and you shall die, sweetly die—into mine. . . .”

And when she had spoken such a rhapsody, she would press me more closely in her trembling embrace, and her lips in soft kisses gently glow upon my cheek.

Her agitations and her language were unintelligible to me. (22)

Laura finds Carmilla “unintelligible” because she finds her own contradictory responses commingled: “a strange tumultuous excitement that was pleasurable, ever and anon, mingled with a vague sense of fear and disgust” (22), a delicate balance between opposites that Le Fanu’s two illustrators in Dark Blue, D. H. Friston and M. Fitzgerald, were at pains to capture.[29]

In recent years, critics of Victorian illustrated serials have undertaken nuanced readings of the interplay between text and image, thereby complicating a view of the illustration as “secondary or supplemental” to the text, and have focused on “the experience of original readers,” for whom the illustration was a primary feature of the narrative (Leighton and Surridge 66–67). Friston and Fitzgerald are not, perhaps, achieving (or even striving for) the same aesthetic effects as Solomon, but their illustrations nonetheless capture some complexly layered temporal and sensory impressions. Keeping in view the reader’s experience, then, and following from the insights of Lorraine Janzen Kooistra in her groundbreaking Artist as Critic, we might think about the illustrations that accompanied three of the four installments of Le Fanu’s novella as occupying at least two different positions in relation to the text: “moving between the shifting boundaries of quotation and impression. On the one hand, the images must ‘quote’ the text sufficiently to allow the reader/views to produce correspondences between picture and word. On the other hand, the artist’s principle objective is to chronicle subjective impressions of the reading experience” (18). Just as, throughout Carmilla, the narrator struggles to capture the “ambiguous feeling” that Carmilla inspires (Le Fanu 19), so the illustrations give their viewers a similar experience.

Fitzgerald engraving for Carmilla

Figure 4: M. Fitzgerald for Sheridan Le Fanu, _Carmilla_ (1872, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University)

In the image that accompanied the second installment (see fig. 4), for example, Fitzgerald presents the scene in chapter four in which Laura and Carmilla are loitering under trees together and encounter a funeral procession passing through the forest. Laura stands to show respect for the mourners and join them in their hymn-singing, and Carmilla reacts with disgust and anger: “My companion shook me a little roughly, and I turned surprised. She said, brusquely, ‘Don’t you perceive how discordant that is?’ ‘I think it very sweet, on the contrary,’ I answered, vexed at the interruption” (25). The image appears to represent the moment just after this when Carmilla struggles to suppress her reaction to the music:

“Well, her funeral is over, I hope, and her hymn sung; and our ears shan’t be tortured with that discord and jargon. It has made me nervous. Sit down here, beside me; sit close; hold my hand; press it hard—hard—harder.”

We had moved a little back, and had come to another seat.

She sat down. Her face underwent a change that alarmed and even terrified me for a moment. It darkened, and became horribly livid; her teeth and hands were clenched, and she frowned and compressed her lips, while she stared down upon the ground at her feet, and trembled all over with a continued shudder as irrepressible as ague. All her energies seemed strained to suppress a fit, with which she was breathlessly tugging; and at length a low convulsive cry of suffering broke from her, and gradually the hysteria subsided. “There! That comes of strangling people with hymns!” she said at last. “Hold me, hold me still. It is passing away.” (25–27)

Fitzgerald, then, gives us two characters’ disparate reactions to something invisible, the sound of music. In Carmilla’s pose, he offers stillness that is really physical and emotional turmoil: barely suppressed trembling, breathlessness, convulsive cries. Laura’s pose, looking toward the funeral-goers with her body turned toward Carmilla, watching the distant ceremony and yet attending to her companion’s strange reaction, likewise seems to divide the reader’s attention between two conflicting impulses: attraction toward and repulsion from Carmilla herself.

Friston engraving for Carmilla

Figure 5: D. H. Friston for Sheridan Le Fanu, _Carmilla_ (1872, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University)

Friston’s two images also freeze moments in fluctuating physical and emotional states. The illustration that appeared with chapter seven in the third installment captures an instant between waking and dreaming when the vampire’s nature is partially revealed (see fig. 5). After weeks during which the vampire has been preying on Laura in her sleep, the young woman is awakened by a dream of a voice in the dark, “sweet and tender, and at the same time terrible, which said ‘Your mother warns you to beware of the assassin.’ At the same time a light unexpectedly sprang up, and I saw Carmilla, standing, near the foot of my bed, in her white night-dress, bathed, from her chin to her foot, in one great stain of blood” (44). Laura, seemingly more naïve than her reader, misinterprets what she sees: “I wakened with a shriek, possessed with the one idea that Carmilla was being murdered” (44). Interestingly, then, in Friston’s illustration we are observing our heroine seeing but not yet really seeing Carmilla for what she is. From our perspective, behind Carmilla, we cannot glimpse the blood that so horrifies Laura, but we can apprehend Carmilla’s sex appeal, with the outline of her naked curves visible through her sheer, backlit gown. We can also see from Carmilla’s perspective the appealing innocence and vulnerability of her victim. The reader is, thus, placed in the position somewhere between the narrator’s experience and the vampire’s point of view, viewing Laura from the foot of the bed even as the narrative describes the same scene from the reverse angle.

This voyeuristic dynamic is further complicated in Friston’s second illustration (see fig. 1), which accompanied chapter fourteen in the final instalment. Here the text is narrated from General Spielsdorf’s perspective as he describes the death of his ward Bertha at the hands of “Millarca,” so we get our narrative framed through Laura’s recounting of the General’s recounting of events. The General, too, is unable to describe the monster that preys on the unconscious girl: “I saw a large black object, very ill-defined, crawl, as it seemed to me, over the foot of the bed, and swiftly spread itself up the to the poor girl’s throat, where it swelled, in a moment, into a great, palpitating mass” (73). Again, the illustration plays up the eroticism of the scene and minimizes the horror: Friston’s Carmilla is no “palpitating mass” but an attractive, if sinister, woman; her victim is laid out to the reader’s gaze as much as to Carmilla’s, but our gaze is also reflected back by the General’s as he emerges from the closet, sword drawn. It is as if he has interrupted something like the erotic encounters that the reader has had titillatingly described by Laura herself earlier in the narrative:

Sometimes there came a sensation as if a hand was drawn softly along my cheek and neck. Sometimes it was as if warm lips kissed me, and longer and more lovingly as they reached my throat, but there the caress fixed itself. My heart beat faster, my breathing rose and fell rapidly and full drawn. A sobbing, that rose into a sense of strangulation, supervened, and turned into a dreadful convulsion, in which my senses left me and I became unconscious. (43)

The illustration plays off the narrative—positioning its viewer uneasily between the pleasure/pain that the victim describes feeling with Carmilla and the horror of the bystander who describes witnessing second-hand the vampire’s “glare of skulking ferocity and horror” (73). Moreover, the orientation of the full-page image, like Solomon’s illustration of Swinburne’s poem, would have invited Dark Blue’s original readers to pause in reading, to turn the book sideways, to linger on the ambiguity that it captures.

Toward the end of the novella, after the revelation of Carmilla’s identity, Laura describes the “amphibious existence of the vampire,” existing between the material and the supernatural realms (81), and we might apply this description, “amphibious,” more broadly. Just as Solomon’s work, according to Swinburne, makes visible “the latent relations of pain and pleasure, the subtle conspiracies of good with evil, the deep alliances of death and life, of love and hate, of attraction and abhorrence” (“Simeon Solomon” 575), so Le Fanu’s text and the accompanying illustrations attempt to render liminal states intelligible: of transnational hybridity, of the vampire’s undead existence, of Laura’s complex feelings for her predatory companion, of the reader’s conflicting investments. Or rather, we might say that all of these images and texts capture the movement from one unstable form to another, recording their own failures to achieve perfect intelligibility. Perhaps this description might be extended to Dark Blue as well.

My focus here on synesthesia, translation, and sexual dissidence in these few texts could have easily included other authors in Dark Blue. Mathilde Blind’s adaptation of a Hungarian folk legend for her “Song of the Willi: A Ballad”—about the specter of a jilted woman who lures her ex-lover to his death on the eve of his wedding—is almost certainly influenced by the 1842 French ballet Giselle, for which Théophile Gautier co-wrote the libretto. Synesthetic sensibilities can likewise be detected in Blind’s appreciative review of Eirikr Magnusson’s translation of Icelandic poem “Lilja (The Lily)” and in Israel Davis’s less positive review of R. D. Blackmore’s The Georgics of Virgil. Or, other thematic groupings might yield striking results by juxtaposing unlikely confederates. There has not, to my knowledge, been any analysis of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Eliza Lynn Linton, and Sheridan Le Fanu together, yet all three produced works for Dark Blue that reflect upon the dangerous (and not so dangerous) effects of women’s appetites. From the tragic unnamed fallen woman in “Down Stream,” whose “fleshly” fall and predictably pathetic (if elegantly rendered) death Ford Madox Brown captures in his two illustrations, to Carmilla’s painful-pleasurable and ultimately fatal appetite for blood, to Linton’s hoydenish, always-hungry heroine’s jilting of her sickly British fiancé and elopement with her ruggedly masculine cousin James, which earns her a “happily ever after” on the American frontier, Dark Blue offers a range of perspectives on feminine desire. There are, surely, other juxtapositions to be explored. As I hope to have demonstrated, the minor, incidental events of literary history—like those recorded in the two short years of Dark Blue’s publication—reward our close attention, even among the many momentous events of the nineteenth-century.

published April 2015

Anna Maria Jones is Associate Professor of English at the University of Central Florida. She is the author of Problem Novels: Victorian Fiction Theorizes the Sensational Self (Ohio State, 2007) and editor (with Rebecca N. Mitchell) of a forthcoming essay collection on Victorian and neo-Victorian graphic texts (Ohio). Her recent work appears in Criticism, Victorian Literature and Culture, and Neo-Victorian Studies.


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—. “A Study of Walt Whitman, The Poet of Modern Democracy: Part II.” Dark Blue 2.9 (1871): 336–49. ProQuest. Web. 23 Feb. 2014.

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—. “Solomon’s Classicism.” Love Revealed: Simeon Solomon and the Pre-Raphaelites. Ed. Colin Cruise. London: Merrell, 2005. 35–45. Print.

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[1] Fans of the internationally popular Japanese manga (graphic novel) Black Butler (Kuroshitsuji) may, likewise, recognize manga artist Yana Toboso’s allusion to Friston’s illustration, specifically in volume ten of that neo-Victorian gothic series. Google’s daily doodle for 28 August 2014, the 200th anniversary of Le Fanu’s birth, was also an homage to Friston’s illustration ( And fans of Sherlock Holmes will know Friston as the first (though by no means best-loved) illustrator of Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective.

[2] All five volumes are included in ProQuest’s British Periodicals digital collection; they are also available in HathiTrust Digital Library, and some are available in Google Books.

[3] The Wellesley reads this “Address to the Public” as a cynical attempt to “reverse the tide” of the journal’s ebbing reputation, which nonetheless “betrays. . . the humility of an exhausted confidence” (Bradley and Houghton 180).

[4] While there is not space in this essay to trace Freund’s fortunes in detail beyond his editorship of Dark Blue, those interested in the history of transatlantic journalism may find it worthwhile to follow his trail to the United States, where Freund undertook a number of publishing ventures, some more successful than others, including Arcadian, Music Trade Review (later Musical Times, and still later Musical and Dramatic Times), and Music (later Music and Drama). Freund’s biographical details and timelines are intriguingly (and inconsistently) inaccurate across different sources. See, for example, the differing dates for his editorship of Dark Blue and his arrival in the United States in Daniel Spillane’s History of the American Pianoforte (1890), Men and Women of America (1910), and Hyacinthe Ringrose’s International Who’s Who (1911). These sources are also wrong about Freund’s first assay at drama, The Undergraduate, which debuted at the Queen’s Theatre in London in 1872 and was universally panned by reviewers during its two-week run. The biographies both misdate the play’s run and mischaracterize its reception. For representative reviews of The Undergraduate, see the Pall Mall Gazette (26 June 1872) and the Examiner (29 June 1872). For accounts of Freund’s role in Booker T. Washington’s ouster of editor Pauline Hopkins from the Colored American Review in 1904, see Alisha Knight’s Pauline Hopkins and the American Dream (28–51) and Hanna Wallinger’s “Pauline F. Hopkins as Editor and Journalist” (154–60).

[5] Even Sims, recounting his own firsthand involvement with Dark Blue, misremembers the journal’s contributors: recalling that his own first contribution, an 1872 write-up of the Cambridge Boat Race, was to be placed “between an article by Ruskin and a poem by Swinburne” (My Life 55), though Ruskin did not contribute, Swinburne’s poem appeared in 1871, and the account of the boat race closest to Swinburne’s poem was written by Reginald Godfrey Marsden, not Sims. The race report to which Sims refers is probably the unsigned one in the April 1872 issue, for, although Sims misremembers dates and contributors, he does remember his joke—that the avid race fans suffer from “tie-fuss fever”—which appears in both the article and his memoir (“Boat Race” 227; My Life 55).

[6] According to the Wellesley, there are no records indicating who took ownership of the journal when Freund left for the U.S.; however, both the Wellesley and Diedrick quote some telling letters from and to Dark Blue’s contributors, warning that Freund had earned a bad name for himself and the journal (Bradley and Houghton 180; Diedrick, “Pioneering Female Aesthete” 237, n. 35).

[7] Although signed “D. Lang,” the story is attributed to Andrew Lang in the Wellesley (Bradley and Houghton 191).

[8] For a thorough account of Blind’s contributions to Dark Blue, see James Diedrick’s “A Pioneering Female Aesthete.”

[9] Lewis established several periodicals, including the weekly paper Woman in 1872 and Woman’s Opinion in 1874 (Tusan 86).

[10] Take Care Whom You Trust was serialized in Dark Blue from its inaugural issue in March 1871 through December of that same year. The novel was panned in the Athenaeum when it was issued in volume form the following year: “The style is weak and occasionally vulgar; the story uninteresting, and the personages commonplace” (“Novels” 620). The reviewer in the Examiner had this to say of “this disagreeable little book”:

We do not know what deans, deans’ wives and daughters, archbishops, unmusical curates, musical amateurs, and all the rest of the world except choral scholars, minor canons, and an occasional farmer or an occasional attorney, have done to Mr Compton Reade that he should dislike them so bitterly; but with these exceptions he seems to take a most ill-conditioned view of men and women. . . . His persistent ill-nature is at times positively amusing to a person who does not enjoy it con amore. (509)

So disagreeable did this reviewer find Take Care Whom You Trust, that the following week Frances Cashel Hoey’s novel, A Golden Sorrow, fared well by comparison: “Mrs Hoey’s is a most agreeable book to turn to after such bitters as Mr Compton Reade provided in a novel which we had the pain of reviewing last week” (532).

[11] See, for example, the reviewer in the Pall Mall Gazette: “The book is undeniably interesting, but it is so in spite of Mr. Compton Reade, who shows himself throughout a singularly foolish person” (“Charles Reade’s Memoirs” 5), or the Saturday Review’s reviewer, who agreed: “It is. . . a piece of work which is interesting in spite of its faults, which are many and deplorable” (“Life of Charles Reade” 659).

[12] To my knowledge, Diedrick’s essay on Blind is the only piece of recent scholarship to discuss Dark Blue’s content in detail.

[13] The line comes from Gilbert’s famous description of Pater’s description of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa in “Critic as Artist”: “Who, again, cares whether Mr. Pater has put into the portrait of Monna Lisa something that Lionardo never dreamed of? . . . [T]he picture becomes more wonderful to us than it really is, and reveals to us a secret of which, in truth, it knows nothing, and the music of the mystical prose is as sweet in our ears as was that flute-player’s music that lent to the lips of La Gionconda those subtle and poisonous curves” (Wilde 156–57).

[14] Jerrold was a second-generation journalist and Francophile, son of William Blanchard Jerrold. The essay is incorrectly attributed to Freund in the Table of Contents but signed by Jerrold.

[15] Tyrwhitt’s “Greek Spirit in Modern Literature,” which appeared in The Contemporary Review in 1877, was an attack on J. A. Symonds that made explicit the connections among the study of Greek culture, nineteenth-century aestheticism, and homosexuality. Tyrwhitt decried, in his oft-quoted turn of phrase, Anglo-Hellenism’s tendency to “phallic ecstasy and palpitations at male beauty” (“Greek Spirit” 562). For accounts of the impact of Tyrwhitt’s attack on Symonds, see Richard Dellamora’s Masculine Desire (160–63); Linda Dowling’s Hellenism and Homosexuality (90–92); and Stefano-Maria Evangelista’s British Aestheticism and Ancient Greece (17, 134–35). For a discussion of contemporary responses to Solomon’s Hellenism, see Prettejohn, “Solomon’s Classicism.”

[16] See Roden Noel, “John Addington Symonds” and “Mr. Swinburne on Walt Whitman,” in the Gentleman’s Magazine and Time, respectively.

[17] In fact, inquiries into the “mental science” of synesthesia occurred concomitantly with these artistic debates. Francis Galton describes the phenomenon in his 1881 essay for the Fortnightly Review, “The Visions of Sane Persons.” Galton cites a case “published in 1873 by Professor Bruhl, of Vienna, of which the English reader will find an account in the last volume of Lewis’s [sic] Problems of Life and Mind (p. 280)” as the “first widely known case” (731).

[18] For more sympathetic accounts, see, for example, letters to the editor by John J. Frye and “Anglo-Saxon” in the Musical Times and Singing Class Circular (1870) and Musical Standard (1871), respectively.

[19] In the original, Baudelaire writes: “C’est, du reste, un des diagnostics de l’état spirituel de notre siècle que les arts aspirent, sinon à se suppléer l’un l’autre, du moins à se prêter réciproquement des forces nouvelles” (“L’Œuvre et la vie” 5). Jonathan Mayne translates this line: “It is, moreover, one of the characteristic symptoms of our age that the arts aspire if not to take another’s place, at least reciprocally to lend one another new powers” (Baudelaire, “Life and Work” 309). Andrew Eastham suggests, in fact, that the term “Anders-streben” itself is meant to deflect attention from Pater’s French connection: “Pater’s own brief gesture of attribution. . . may therefore have been a tactical diversion, since it does not appear in any of the primary German sources of Pater’s aesthetic thinking: in pointing towards the more earnest German tradition, Pater may have been trying to deflect any dangerous associations with French decadent Aestheticism” (202).

[20] Similarly, in Translation and Subjectivity Naoki Sakai offers an evocative definition of translation as “an instance of continuity in discontinuity and a poeietic social practice that institutes a relation at the site of incommensurability” (13).

[21] Maxwell sees Swinburne’s synesthesia as influenced by Baudelaire, Gautier, Shelley, and Whistler (“Whistlerian Impressionism” 219). See also Prettejohn, “Solomon, Swinburne, Sappho.”

[22] Given Swinburne’s and Solomon’s close friendship with each other and with Pater at this time, it makes sense that their ideas about synesthesia would be so similar, not to mention so reliant on Baudelaire. Pater’s “School of Giorgione” essay was added to the third edition of The Renaissance in 1888 and originally published in the Fortnightly Review in 1877. However, Donald Hill, following Lawrence Evans, suggests in his “Critical and Explanatory Notes” on The Renaissance that this same is in fact the unnamed essay that Pater had written for Macmillan’s in 1872 but then recalled at the last minute, which puts its composition much closer to Swinburne’s contributions to Dark Blue (Pater 384). For more on interconnections among Swinburne, Solomon, and Pater, see Dellamora, Masculine Desire.

[23] Among other French, Arabian, and Italian translations, Payne produced an English limited edition of Francois Villon’s poetry, printed on vellum for private distribution for the Villon Society. He also published in 1878 a long poem, Lautrec, about a female vampire who bears at least a passing resemblance to Le Fanu’s Carmilla.

[24] In fact, Leary’s language here anticipates Robert Buchanan’s famous attack on the “fleshly school of poetry” (Swinburne included), which appeared in October that same year in the Contemporary Review.

[25] W. J. McCormack offers the most detailed account to date of Le Fanu’s life and works in his Sheridan Le Fanu.

[26] The lines in the original French read: “Comme de longs échos qui de loin se confondent / Dans une ténébreuse et profonde unité, / Vaste comme la nuit et comme la clarté / Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se répondent.” For a thorough treatment of Swedenborg’s influence on Baudelaire (and Balzac), see Lynn R. Wilkinson’s The Dream of an Absolute Language.

[27] For a detailed reading of Uncle Silas as a Swedenborgian text, see McCormack (148–94).

[28] Carmilla appeared in Dark Blue in issues 2.10, 2.11, 2.12, and 3.13, from December 1871 to March 1872; when it was published later in 1872 in the collection In a Glass Darkly, the narrative was given a frame, presented along with the other tales as part of the collected papers of the fictional Dr. Hesselius. All citations from Carmilla hereafter refer to Jamieson Ridenhour’s 2009 edition with Valancourt Press, which reproduces the original unframed narrative as it appeared serially.

[29] As Simon Cooke notes, Friston and Fitzgerald would have been under some constraints: to represent the tale’s eroticism without overstepping the bounds of propriety, and to interpret a character whose monstrosity resides, in part, in her shifting, ambiguous identity (n. pag.). Cooke’s discussion of Friston’s and Fitzgerald’s illustrations is useful for reading them in the context of Le Fanu’s other illustrators, though his treatment of Dark Blue is somewhat cursory.